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Family Law in Ontario

Family Law in OntarioIntroduction

Family law is a branch of law that deals with legal issues relating to family and domestic relationships. It includes issues such as divorce, child custody and access, child support, spousal support, adoption, and child protection. In Ontario, family law is governed by provincial and federal laws, including the Divorce Act, the Family Law Act, and the Children’s Law Reform Act. This article will provide an overview of family law in Ontario, including the different laws that govern it and the legal processes involved in resolving family law disputes.

Legal framework for Family Law in Ontario

The legal framework for family law in Ontario comprises both federal and provincial legislation. The following are the key statutes that govern family law in Ontario:

1. Divorce Act

The Divorce Act is a federal law that applies to all provinces and territories in Canada, including Ontario. The act governs the process for obtaining a divorce in Canada. It sets out the grounds for divorce, which include separation for at least one year, adultery, and cruelty. The act also deals with issues such as custody, access, and child support.

2. Family Law Act

The Family Law Act is a provincial law that applies only to Ontario. The act governs family law matters that are not covered under the federal Divorce Act. It contains rules for issues such as property division, spousal support, common-law relationships, and domestic contracts. One of the key features of the Family Law Act is the principle of equalization of net family property upon separation or divorce.

3. Children’s Law Reform Act

The Children’s Law Reform Act is an Ontario law that addresses issues relating to children, such as child custody, access, and support. The act also covers matters such as adoption, child protection, and parentage.

Legal processes involved in resolving family law disputes in Ontario

Family law disputes can be resolved through a variety of legal processes, depending on the nature and complexity of the issues involved. The following are some of the common legal processes used to resolve family law disputes in Ontario:

1. Negotiation

Negotiation is a process whereby the parties involved in a family law dispute attempt to settle their issues through discussion and compromise. Negotiation can be done informally between the parties, through their lawyers, or with the assistance of a mediator. The goal of negotiation is to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that meets the needs of both parties.

2. Mediation

Mediation is a process whereby an impartial third party (the mediator) helps the parties in a family law dispute to reach a settlement. The mediator does not make decisions for the parties but rather assists them in negotiating and communicating effectively. Mediation is confidential and usually less expensive and less adversarial than going to court.

3. Collaborative family law

Collaborative family law is a process whereby the parties in a family law dispute and their respective lawyers agree to work together collaboratively to resolve the issues in the dispute. The parties sign a participation agreement that sets out the terms of the collaborative process. If the parties cannot reach a settlement, they must retain new lawyers to represent them in court.

4. Arbitration

Arbitration is a process whereby a neutral third party (the arbitrator) makes a decision about the issues in a family law dispute. The arbitrator’s decision is binding on the parties. Arbitration can be used to resolve all types of family law disputes, including property division, support, custody and access, and adoption. It is usually faster and less formal than going to court.

5. Court proceedings

In some cases, it may be necessary to initiate court proceedings to resolve a family law dispute. The court has the power to make orders with respect to custody, access, child and spousal support, property division, and other family law matters. Court proceedings are typically more formal and adversarial than other legal processes, and they can be lengthy and expensive.


Family law in Ontario is complex and multifaceted. It is governed by both federal and provincial laws, and there are several legal processes available to parties involved in family law disputes. The best approach for resolving a family law dispute depends on the specific circumstances of the case. Regardless of the legal process chosen, it is essential to have the guidance of an experienced family law lawyer to ensure that your legal rights and interests are protected.

Family law in Ontario is somewhat universal when compared to the family laws throughout Canada. The predominant focus of family law in Ontario is divorce law. Ontario law states that, should a couple get divorced, any increase in the couple’s assets during the marriage is divided equally upon divorce. The starting point for calculating the division of property in Ontario family law is to first calculate all the assets on the date of separation, followed by subtracting the liabilities shared.
All formalities and rulings associated with family law in Ontario is administered through the province’s local court system. The rulings towards child custody rights and divorce issues is evaluated and delivered through a jurisdiction’s local court system, however, other rulings or appeals are handled by the area’s supreme courts.